by or about famous artists
Great love springs from the full knowledge of the thing one
loves; and if you do not know it, you can love it but little or not at all.
Is an artist who does one thing well superior to an artist
who does lots of things well? Is less, or more, more? Although Michelangelo
was unsurpassed in the depiction of the male nude, Aretino accused him of
monmaniacally depicting the same stock figure again and again. Raphael
more versatile, able to
do portraits and landscape backgrounds
and distinguish between
sexes and ages.
I confess that I am by natural instinct better fitted to execute very large
works than small curiosities.
Peter Paul Rubens
Tintoretto encouraged the use of a nickname which identified him as the son
of a humble dyer, and sought the patronage of middle-class and artisan Venetians.
El Greco (1541-1614)
El Greco was mainly ... a teller of old familiar stories, .. but he told them
in his own peculiar manner, and that manner tells another story, so enigmatic
that pore over it in fascinated bewilderment, trying to construe its meaning.
Caravaggio (1573-1610) art
There is no diversity in Caravaggio... His originality lies elsewhere; it
is less in the creation of the immediately identifiable, intensely personal
style ... but rather a look, a look which is his, and his alone... So Caravaggio
is original in this rather new sense: his style has a presence which bears
his name. This is invention not as diversity and multiplicity of talent, but
as an impassioned personalized narrowness. It is genius as obsession.
When our eyes rest on a painting by Rembrandt (on those he did in the last
years of his life), our gaze become heavy, somewhat bovine. Something holds
it back, a weighty force. Why do we keep looking, since we are not immediately
enchanted by the intellectual liveliness that knows everything and all at
once? ... Rembrandt not only stops the time that made the subject flow into
the future, but makes it flow back to the remotest ages. By means of this
operation, Rembrandt achieves solemnity.
Velasquez, with formidable audacity, executes the supreme gesture of disdain
that calls forth a whole new painting... Until then, the painter's eye had
Ptolemaically revolved about each object, following a servile orbit. Velasquez
despotically resolves to fix the one point of view. The entire picture will
be born in a single act of vision, and things will have to contrive as best
they may to move into the line of vision. It is a Copernican revolution, comparable
to that promoted by Descartes.
Jose Ortega y Gasset
Working up from that base, he will set down their bodies, in thin white tonal
washes, tamp these back into the ground, with earthy or sooty overlays; re-gather
for another move upward into the light; conceal his traces again, glazing
however with more forceful hues, before committing himself to the declamatory
flash of impasto.... More often a brush load of near-dry paint rasps over
the grain of the canvas with an irritative sensuality, here dragging a cool
opaque bloom over the deep translucent heat of plum-flesh...
Julian Bell on the Bowl of Plums, Peach and Water Pitcher
Turner lived all his life in great simplicity, with his working-man father,
and two successive mistresses who were both illiterate. He amassed an immense
fortune and left it, with all his paintings, the best of which he refused
to sell, to his native country and to charity. (His will was broken by remote
and greedy heirs.)
For Whistler the nocturne was a concept as much as it was a perception, as
much an idea as an image. He could take it almost anywhere and, in addition
to paint, could use any number of painterly means. ("Paint should not
be applied thick," he had said. "It should be like breath on the
surface of a pane of glass.")
No man ever had more than one conception. Milton emptied his mind in his first
book of Paradise Lost, all the rest is transcript of self. The Odyssey is
a repetition of the Iliad. .. I can think of no exception but Shakespeare;
he is always varied, never mannered.
Each epoch must have its artists who express it and reproduce it for the future.
Monet announces: "Here is nature as you don't usually see it, as I myself
don't usually see it, but as you can see it - not necessarily this particular
effect but, in my wake, others which resemble it. The vision I offer you is
superior to the one we put up with; my painting will change reality for you..."
A minute in the world's life passes! To paint it in its reality, and forget
everything for that! To become that minute, to be the sensitive plate...
The truly original artist invents his own signs... The importance of an artist
is to be measured by the number of new signs he has introduced into the language
Matisse: the artist speaks
Hostile critics have seen his shifts in subject matter and style as somersaults
of a dilettante and common, while admirers see them as evidence of God-like
Cubism and Surrealism
Cubism was a way of painting which a group of painters imposed on themselves,
Surrealism a philosophy of life put forward by a band of poets. The first
was essentially a method of breaking up the object and putting it together
again according to concepts of pictorial structure... The second was the attempt
of a highly organized group to change life altogether, to make a new kind
Thieaud's streets live tremendously while people exist only by implication,
like the invisible drivers of a child's toy trucks and cars.
Paolo Uccello (1397-1495)
We see no birds in the paintings of Paolo Uccello. In all his teeming world
the skies are empty. One looks up in hope, and sees no feathered creatures
in flight or perched on the branches of trees. Lowering one's eyes onto a
tranquil landscape peopled by hermits, one can discern, at the most, a pair
of wading birds and three swans.
Piero Della Francesca (1439-1492)
Friends say: well, you've been there and seen a lot; you liked Duccio, the
Dorian columns, the stained glass at Chartres and the Lascaux bulls - but
tell us what you've chosen for yourself; who is the painter closest to your
heart, the one you'll never exchange? A reasonable question since every love,
if true, should efface the previous one, should enter, overwhelm and demand
exclusiveness. So I pause and reply: Piero della Francesca.
Hans Holbein the Younger
Holbein's lords no longer ride hunting. They are inmates of palaces, their
flesh is rounded, their limbs at rest, their eyes skeptical or contemplative.
They are indolent statesmen, they deal in intrigues; they have already learnt
the meaning of the words "The balance of the powers," and in consequence
they wield the sword no longer; they have become sedentary rulers.
Ford Madox Ford
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